The Schulenburg Mansion in Gera embodies nascent modernism in Europe. Built between 1913 and 1915, it was designed by Belgian architect Henry van de Velde as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art. Today the villa houses a museum that presents Van de Velde’s work in an unparalleled fashion.
The Schulenburg Mansion in Gera is one of the most important works by Henry van de Velde. The Belgian architect and designer was a prominent exponent of early modernism. The house, built between 1913 and 1915 for the family of local factory owner Paul Schulenburg, was designed as a Gesamtkunstwerk – a total work of art. Van de Velde was responsible not only for the building’s architecture but also for its interiors and gardens. This impressive ensemble is an early example of nascent modernism’s idea of a comprehensive approach to art. Elements that would later become integral to Bauhaus design are already found here.
Van de Velde was the director of the Grand Ducal School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar when he was commissioned to design the building. He equipped the brick villa, whose third storey is concealed within a mansard roof, with modern building services and designed an impressive staircase of elm wood and brass detailing for the entry hall. The Belgian artist and architect designed all aspects of the interiors: the furniture and carpets, the tableware, silverware and light fixtures, the upholstery fabrics for the seating and the textile wallcoverings. In 1921, he completed the sprawling garden by adding a water lily pond, cascading fountain, greenhouse and gardener’s residence. Today, the entire building and garden complex is listed as a historic monument.
Since 1997, the ensemble has been gradually restored to its original design. Wall panelling and the colour scheme have been recreated, and some rooms now have their original furnishings again. This work was made possible above all by the private support of a Magdeburg couple, both doctors. For the 2007 National Horticultural Show, the 3,500 sq m garden and its pergola, fountains, pavilions and many open lawn spaces were restored on the basis of historical plans.
The house, garden and an additional 4,000 sq m park are open to the public. In addition to exhibition and event rooms, the Schulenburg Mansion also houses the Henry van de Velde Museum, a private museum that displays one of the largest collections of Van de Velde’s book designs alongside furniture and artworks representing his creative milieu. Construction of a new sculpture park is currently underway.